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Common Design Mistakes and How To Fix Them


Some of us are pros at marketing strategy, while others are great at writing, and others again have a creative visual flare. But not all teams have every role filled in-house, and design is sometimes the skill that people choose to do themselves rather than outsourcing. How hard can it be to put together an idea for a business card or poster? From our experience, there is more to it than you think, and common mistakes show up often in business design. What do you do when your brand needs fresh and creative designs for its marketing and visual elements?


The most obvious answer, of course, is to hire a professional designer to make your marketing and designs look good. But even when doing this, some clients have ideas in their heads that they won’t budge on, resulting in a design that still has some basic mistakes in it despite having a designer put it together. A designer can make recommendations all they want, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the client what the final piece looks like before print or publication.

Therefore, whether creating a design yourself, or hiring a professional to do it, we’ve put together this brief list of common design mistakes to keep in mind when coming up with new design for your business. Not only that, but there are suggestions to fix these simple mistakes, to make sure your message is clear and impactful in all of your designs:


1) Too Many Competing Factors

We’ve all seen designs that can be described as nothing but “busy”. If you have too many words, images, or ideas in one piece, the message becomes convoluted and your eye won’t know where to go. One of the most important things to remember when designing is asking yourself: what is the big picture? There is so much visual information being thrown at us these days, so most people only give images and marketing a quick glance as it goes by. It is therefore key to create something that gives a big impression fast, and the way to do that is by using a single big picture. Do you have one main focal point to draw the eye in and give the viewer a quick idea of what your advertisement or business is about? You first need to draw people in with a quick look before you can share more detailed information. 2) Too Many Fonts

Just like you can have too many big images that create confusion, you can also have too many fonts. Differentiating between different fonts can distinguish what information belongs together, but having too many can cause confusion and leave areas looking like they don’t belong. A general rule is to use no more than 3 fonts in any given piece, and be sure to use only one font from each family to make up these three. For instance, you may choose to use one Serif, one Sans Serif, and one Script font together to great effect, but using 3 different Sans Serifs creates a disconnect between them in the brain as the fonts won’t be different enough for the change to look intentional. Which brings us to point #3….


3) Differences Are Not Significant Enough and Look Like Accidents

Sometimes you want to differentiate between items by changing the size, font, or colour. These are important for visual interest and contrast (which we will get to later), but not making items different enough to be immediately distinguishable from one another can cause a problem. Take for example if you have the same font in two different sizes that are only slightly larger than one another: your brain will pick up the difference, but since the items are almost virtually the same your mind will also want to categorize them as one, and therefore cause confusion. It will look like a mistake, rather than a change that was intentional. When trying to differentiate between items, make sure the changes are significant enough, or make two different changes at once (font, size, colour, etc) to really mark the change. To think of it another way: if you see a line on a drawing that is just slightly askew, it may look like an error, but if it’s extra crooked, it will look like the person who drew it meant for it to be that way. Make sure all elements look intentional in their execution.


4) No Contrast Makes it Unclear Where to Look Have you ever looked at an ad in a magazine or newspaper where the colours are all so similar is it hard to pick out the words? Or all the same-sized words fill the page so it looks like a field of text where it’s hard to identify the main picture? Contrast can come in many forms: light versus dark colours, big versus small images and text, or filled areas versus negative space. Having items distinct from one another will make them not just easy to read, but easy to pick out and draw the eye to them, rather than making the viewer squint to try and pick out the important components. 5) The Eye Doesn't Move Within the Piece

This could also be asked as: how does the image flow? Do your eyes get drawn in by a big image, and then led down to the important information? Or do you have lines that make your eyes follow them only to be shot off the page? Making sure your design is visually appealing but also keeps the eye on the page through the movement of elements is hard to do. But one way to test out the effectiveness of your piece is to literally show someone and ask how their eyes are drawn throughout it. One simple way to create flow within the design is to create repetitions of elements to make the piece feel like a whole that reflects on itself: this is often done through repeating shapes or colours appearing in multiple locations to tie the whole piece together as one that doesn’t feel like it stops abruptly in any area.


6) Not Knowing the Format, Color Mode, and Sizing You Need for Files

Whether designing yourself or hiring a designer to do it, knowing the file type, color mode, and dimensions/sizing needed is important to ensure that your design is printed and applied correctly when it is done. Not only that, but having correct dimensions can be important in a designer figuring out the layout of a design from the get-go. If you are unsure what you need, ask for specifics before you get started, so you know that you won’t end up with a great design that needs to be redone or reconfigured once you realize you actually need something else.


Good design is not just creative, but involves the science of sight and how our eyes make sense of what we see. It is about taking information and presenting it in a visual way. That’s why being aware of how common mistakes may be hurting your design and the impact on your message is important both when making designs yourself or when looking for external design help. By keeping these suggestions in mind, you will be able to spot them and make fixes to heighten your designs to the level you need to get your message out clearly.


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